Hacks, Tips, Tricks, Short Cuts Feed

A Bachelor on the Cheap Cook's Tip for juicy meatballs guaranteed

Meatball dinner
Winner - Winner, Meatball Dinner!  Chicken and Parm meatballs over yellow rice & veggies.

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Break out the box grater and shred a potato for guaranteed moist meatballs.

I initially used this with a ground chicken meatball recipe.  Ground chicken is a very lean meat and can dry out very quickly.  Those meatballs were fantastic with the shredded potato addition!  I've been putting shredded potatoes into all types of meatball recipes ever since.   It not only works well with leaner meats such as chicken and turkey but also with lean grinds like 90/10 and 85/15 ground beef.  It enhances the flavor profile as well, even with fattier ground meats such as pork and lamb.

It's also "cookproof"...  Even if you overcook the meatballs, they'll still be moist on the inside, a save by the potato.

The addition of shredded potato also works well with meatloaf and patties.  

Peel and shred one medium potato for two pounds of ground meat.  Works with any recipe.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

~ Mike

 

 


Tape hack using bread bag clips

Tape Hack
You're welcome

BachelorontheCheap.com

I saw this on Facebook I think, so I thought I would give it a shot.

It works well!  No more hunting for the line to pull a strip of tape; no struggling (scrape, scrape, scrape...) to start pulling a strip of tape on those stickier or older rolls (and yes, the adhesive on tapes do expire); no more folding a bit under to make it easier to find the start of the tape, but you have to tear off a piece for a clean strip, wasting time and tape; no more uneven pulls, tearing of the tape...

The hack makes a great repurposed use of something that's otherwise thrown away, bread bag clips.

It works on any kind of tape.

Genius.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

~ Mike


Bachelor on the Cheap: Adding flavor to your coffee with dry spices

Adding flavor to your coffee with dry spices
Easy peasy flavor add with drip coffee makers

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Here's a quick little trick to add some extra flavor to your coffee without adding any additional sugar that can happen with using creamers or syrups.

Add dry spices to your coffee grounds.

I'm not a coffee snob, I don't do Starbucks, I don't grind my own beans, and I don't use a Keurig and those overpriced flavored coffee pods.  I'm a simple drip coffee maker kind of guy.  I don't drink my coffee black though, it's got to have some added flavor.

Putting dry spices in your coffee grounds allows those spices to bloom and infuse with the coffee during the brewing process, giving off an enhanced coffee aroma and creating a great depth of flavor.  

Adding dry spices to coffee grounds
Add dry spices to the coffee canister, or individual brews, your call.

Adding cinnamon, cardamom, or nutmeg to your grounds are solid choices.  I like to add a trifecta if you will of flavors, cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger.  Other flavors to consider are clove, allspice, star anise, and the very seasonal pumpkin spice.  Look in your spice cabinet, play with it, enjoy a variety of flavors, it's WAY cheaper than buying a bunch of creamers or syrups!

$pend Wisely My Friends...

~ Mike


Coffee Creamer Hack

CoffeeBachelorontheCheap.com

I've GOT to have my morning coffee and I have to have at least one cup before even thinking about leaving the house.  I don't drink it black though, I like to add some creamer - hazelnut-flavored creamer is my go-to.

For those times when you run out of creamer like I did this morning because I put off going to the grocery store - thank you snow shower and slick streets...  Don't reach for the milk (boring!).

Grab the ice cream out of the freezer instead.  Put a small scoop of ice cream in your cup before you pour the coffee.  A little vanilla ice cream with that coffee is WAY better than coffee with a splash of milk in the absence of creamer.

And don't stop at vanilla.  That's the beauty of this hack, think about all those flavor varieties out there...   consider chocolate, cinnamon, coconut, hazelnut, mint, and yes, even the seasonal pumpkin spice.  Stick with the simple, straightforward flavored ice creams, I wouldn't recommend something like Rocky Road, unless you want chunky coffee.

Tip:  For easier scooping, take the ice cream out of the freezer before making the coffee.  After grabbing that scoop for the first cup, put the container in the fridge - not back in the freezer - for another easy scoop for that second cup.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

~ Mike


Updated old school salt shaker hack

Table salt
A shaker of table salt with some Pink Himalayan salt to break up clumping and clogging

BachelorontheCheap.com

If you're from the Baby Boomer generation, then you probably had a grandmother who put grains of dry rice in the salt shaker.  Doing so helps prevent the salt from clumping up and also clogging the holes at the top.  That clumping and clogging is due to ambient moisture in the surrounding air (that means humidity for those of you who live in Valley Center).  Grandmas got smart with table salt, those grains of rice bounce around in the shaker preventing the clumping and clogging, guaranteeing you can get some salt out of the shaker. 

Other old-school options are to use dry beans or herbs in the shaker to act as anti-clogging and anti-clumping agents, but those can affect the taste of the salt.  Coffee-flavored salt?  No thanks, and while herbs have their place for certain dishes, it's not an everyday salt shaker solution, herbal salts serve better for specialized eats. 

Updating that old-school hack:  Put some larger granule salt in your table salt shaker.  Ambient moisture can really put a damper on the fine granules of ordinary table salt (see what I did there with 'damper'...moisture, damper...), but it doesn't have near the effect on large granule salts like Pink Himalayan salt.  Those much larger pink granules will do the same job as dry rice, beans, or herbs in keeping the regular table salt clump and clog-free.   There are no worries about the Pink Himalayan salt clumping up with regular use and bonus, no bean or herb effect on flavor!

Pinch pot of Kosher salt
Add table salt to your pinch pot of cooking salt to get the health benefits of iodine

Here's another salt tip, for those who like to keep the ever-so-convenient pinch pot of salt close to the stovetop.  I'm one of those cooks, I do a lot of it and it's far more convenient to grab a pinch of salt than it is to shake the amount of salt you need or use a grinder.  I like to cook with Kosher salt, those larger granules deliver a bigger pop of flavor in each bite, especially in 'finish' salting a dish just before serving.  Think topping french fries with some salt just out of the fryer, or hitting a steak with some Kosher along with melted butter.  The problem with Kosher salt and other larger granule specialized salts is they lack iodine (Pink Himalayan has some, but not enough to meet the body's needs).  So whatever specialized cooking salt you like to keep in your pinch pot, be it Kosher, Pink Himalayan, Sea Salt, or other, put a bit of regular table salt in your pinch pot, combining it with your favorite.  That way, you get the benefits of iodine, which helps regulate the metabolic rate of a person.  

$pend Wisely My Friends...

~ Mike

 

 


Whole slice bacon hack

Whole slice bacon hack
Roll that package of bacon before opening

BachelorontheCheap.com

You know how sometimes you open up a package of bacon, you try to pull a few slices to cook up and you don't get a whole slice, it's fall apart, coming off in pieces bacon? 

This is a widespread problem with lower-quality bacon like Great Value (Walmart store brand) and other inferior bargain brands that are very thinly sliced.

If you haven't already seen this on the internet, here's a great trick to ensure you can pull a whole slice (shout out to Jennifer A who brought this to my attention):

Roll the bacon package before you open it.

Peeling bacon from the package
rolling the package before opening eliminates fall-apart slices

What this does is help to separate the slices.  When it comes to thinly sliced bacon, the packaging process, vacuum sealing, and packing weight (think cases of bacon, packaged on top of each other for shipping, can tend to morph thinly sliced bacon together, the naturally high-fat content in bacon (which is even higher in many discount brands) lends itself to that morphing as well.  Higher quality bacon cuts and thick-cut bacon tend not to suffer from this can't-pull-a-whole-slice 'phenomenon.'

So if you roll the package before opening it, you should be able to peel a whole slice of bacon from the pack, easy peasy.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

~ Mike

 

 


Spice up your coffee

BachelorontheCheap.com

Photo by Nathan Dumlao/UnsplashRWw-unsplashI'm not into single-cup coffee brewers like Keurig. Sure they're convenient and in addition to regular coffee, they have a nice variety of flavored coffees to choose from.  But as a drinker of more than one cup of coffee a day, Keurig pods are pricey, in my book, cost prohibitive.

I'm a drip brew coffee maker guy.  Drip brewing is quite a bit cheaper than pod coffee and frankly, just as convenient.  No, you can't change flavors from cup to cup like you can with pods, but a drip brewer is just about as fast as a pod maker, with most modern drip machines allowing you to pour a cup before the whole pot is brewed.  And because a drip brewer keeps the coffee warm, I can simply pour that second cup, no trashing the old pod, inserting a new pod, and the wait to brew, required. 

The only real advantage a pod maker has is in the flavor department.  The choices are many.  Some folks are into changing flavors with their second or third cup or trying something new.  I'm not into that mid-morning change and if I want to explore new flavors, then a pot of it is brewed. And while you can purchase some flavored coffees for drip brewers at the grocery store like Hazelnut and French Vanilla, the options are limited.  You can expand on those options at specialty stores and some online shopping, but that price point goes up.

Don't pay extra for coffee blends...

Flavor your coffee using your spice rack and extracts.

For health reasons, I've been mixing cinnamon and ginger in my canister of coffee grounds for a couple of years now.  Those two spices have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and other beneficial properties, in addition to adding a little flavor to that morning cup of Joe.  If you don't want to doctor your canister of grounds, you can simply add a few dashes of spice to the brew basket in making your daily brew.

You can really flavor things up this way, adding quite a bit of variety to your normal cup of coffee.  The beauty is, it's blended with the brew, it's balanced, with the filter keeping out any spice grittiness.  About a 1/2 teaspoon of spice per six cups will do.

Spices to try:

  • Allspice
  • Cardamom
  • Cinnamon
  • Ground Clove
  • Ginger
  • Nutmeg
  • Pumpkin Spice  (Yes, despite the pumpkin spice flavored everything overkill from Halloween through Thanksgiving, this is tasty)
  • Star Anise (I'm not a black licorice flavor fan, but some people like this combo)

Cocoa Powder is another great flavor addition.  And if you grind your own beans, try adding some cocoa nibs to the grind.

Extracts to try:  When making a pot of coffee, throw a couple of drops of extract in the pot before brewing, rather than doctoring up the coffee grind.

  • Almond
  • Coconut
  • Maple
  • Mint
  • Vanilla
  • Fruit flavors
  • There are other flavors to have fun with to, like "Cake Batter"

You don't need to buy special blends or pods to get great flavored coffee.  Take advantage of the spices and extracts you have on hand.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

~ Mike

Related:  A Bachelor on the Cheap Challenge: Going Gluten-Free For Good

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Selling something: Facebook Marketplace vs Pawn Shop

Photo by: Mick Haupt/UnsplashBachelorontheCheap.com

So you have a few items you no longer use or need, they're taking up space, collecting dust and/or the spouse is nagging you to get rid of them. You don't have enough "crap" to have a garage sale and finding the right consignment store to sell something can be a challenge. 

Selling on an online platform has its benefits and if you're looking for quick cash and to be "done with it," then a Pawn Shop is an option.

Which one is right for you?

Facebook Marketplace is the go-to place for a lot of folks, buyers, and sellers alike.  Online platforms like Craigslist and eBay USED to be the way to go, now it's Facebook Marketplace.  It's easy to sell just about anything on Facebook, and it's free.  You don't have to set up a special account, you just join a Marketplace group on Facebook, and BONUS - joining a group will network you with other LOCAL buy/sell/trade groups.  Take a few pictures of those record albums, that Playstation, those tools, briefly describe your item, and BOOM, what you're selling is in front of a ton of local buyers in minutes.  There's no loading the item(s) up in the vehicle, then driving to a thrift store or pawn shop only to be disappointed with the price quote.  And with that being said, let me state the obvious, you're going to make more money for that item on Facebook.   Pawn and thrift shops can't give you top dollar, if they did, they wouldn't stay in business very long.   It's easy to communicate with buyers on Facebook to set up the person-to-person sale of your personal goods.  But that also can be the downfall of using Facebook Marketplace.  Some people aren't comfortable with meeting a stranger to complete a transaction, especially at their home for the sale of a couch for example.  It's recommended that transactions be conducted at a neutral site, such as a Dillons or QuikTrip parking lot.  Another downfall to using Facebook is the potential for scams.  Minutes after posting an item for sale, you may get FB messaged by a number of folks who aren't genuine buyers, they'll insist on getting your cell phone number so they can call or text you for "questions" they have about the item.  Don't fall for it.  Everything necessary to complete a sale including the meeting place can and should be done through messenger.  What the scammers are trying to do is get your number for phishing and ID theft motivations as well as possible money scams through payment platforms like Zelle.  To sum up, Facebook Marketplace is easy to use, posting takes just minutes and you can edit prices/item descriptions with ease.  Your item may sell that first day but could take a couple of weeks or even longer depending on the item.

A Pawn Shop is a go-to place if quick cash and/or getting rid of an item as quickly as possible are priorities.  A pawn shop offers competitive prices if you're buying something, but as a seller, and as previously mentioned, you're not going to get the best up-front price.  Certain items however are better sold at a Pawn Shop vs. trying to sell on Facebook Marketplace.  Items like gold, jewelry, or Gucci handbags can be authenticated by a Pawn Shop, helping to establish the trust factor, and eliminating the fake element.  That can't be done on Facebook.  Buyers hesitate from buying such items on FB Marketplace because they can't determine if it's genuine or not, resulting in a post that could be up for weeks with no interest.  That disinterest can result in you eventually dropping your price to unload it, even below what you might get at a pawn shop.  To sum up, a Pawn Shop may be your best option for a quick sale and specialty items that should be validated.

$pend Wisely My Friends...
 
~ Mike
 

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Super Bowl Watch Party Menu Ideas

Super Bowl 2023
Eagles vs. Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII

Bachelor on the Cheap

Super Bowl Sunday, a day when millions of NFL fans and non-fans who just like a party and the commercials, gather around televisions to celebrate what should be a federal holiday on Monday, so people can recover from the festivities...

If you're having a watch party, here are a few ideas for a crowd-pleasing menu to help you celebrate.

A Pizza Buffet:  This is a popular Super Bowl menu to go with and the easiest, but also the most expensive.  There's not near as much cooking involved aside from creating some sides... (see what I did there, with "aside"... I crack myself up...) and the clean up is easier, for the most part no pots, pans, utensils, crock pots, warming bins to wash after the party is over.  All you have to do is order a variety of pizzas, perhaps a few ready sides from your favorite joint and lay it all out buffet style.  Family and friends can add to the feast by bringing a side or dessert.  Keep in mind, pizza delivery will really be delayed on this day, because other watch parties are doing the same thing you are.  Super Bowl Sunday is a SLAMMING BUSY day for pizza joints.  Typical delivery times of 30-45 minutes are out the window, especially for bulk orders.  You'll need to time it, placing your order early is recommended.  TIP:  You can actually place your order online or use your favorite pizza joint's app (most places) WAY ahead of time and set the delivery time.  Some local establishments may not have this feature. 

NFL FootballTaco Bar:  This one is probably the most versatile self-serve menu and perhaps the cheapest to put together.  Everybody loves tacos and bonus, it's multi-purpose!  In setting up for tacos, you've also set up a salad bar.  Whether it's just a few buddies and their significant others to feed or a houseful of guests, creating a taco bar saves you time and the crock pot is your friend.  Staying warm all game long, people can help themselves to tacos throughout the festivities, it's a low-maintenance, low-prep work-required meal.   You can brown the ground beef and taco season it the night before and refrigerate or brown it the morning before company arrives for the games.  If you don't have more than one crock pot, borrow one or two, think bean dip, queso, or perhaps a chicken taco option.  Ask party guests to bring something with those tacos in mind, be it taco shells, tortilla chips, salad, guacamole, soda or the like, because as the host, this minimizes time in the kitchen and maximizes your time watching the game and mingling with guests.  The clean up for a Taco Bar won't be as easy as for a pizza buffet, but if you use paper plates, plastic cups and utensils, it's still a fairly easy make tidy chore.

Chili Bar:  Here's another menu that's pretty easy to prep and crowd-pleasing.  Again, the crock pot is your friend and you can probably talk one of your friends into bringing their version of chili, maybe a white chili in a crock pot.  Heck, turn it into a contest, open things up to all guests, and award a prize for the best chili.   The best part, chili goes well with so many things!  There's the classic bowl of chili, with crackers or Fritos along with the toppers of chopped onion, shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream.  There's chili over rice (a personal favorite), there's chili over spaghetti noodles Cincinnati style, and if you feel like going all out you can do chili dogs.  TIP:  Chili is always better tasting the next day, giving all those ingredients time to get all happy together.  Make your chili the day before, not only for the better flavor, but so you can focus on the little party details on game day.   And while this is a very tasty menu, a chili bar makes for the messiest cleanup, even if you go with paper bowls and plasticware.  There's all the crock pots, serving utensils, serving trays for sides and toppers and the cookware you used to make the rice, spaghetti, the hot dogs, etc....

BBQ Bar:  This is arguably the tastiest menu option, especially if you take great pride and pleasure in smoking meats.  Pulled pork is the easiest way to go, it serves a big crowd but MUST be done the day before.  Ribs are another option and slicing up a couple racks makes for some great finger smacking good individual servings.  Brisket is a real crowd pleaser but an expensive option.  BBQ chicken is a nice wallet-friendly alternative if you're going with a two-meat menu, but if you have plenty of pulled pork and a few sides, you really don't need anything else.  Ask guests to bring buns, chips, convince some guests to bring mac & cheese, baked beans, cole slaw, potato salad, pasta salad.  Don't forget the pickles for those pulled pork sandwiches!  Again, the crock pot is your friend, so are one or two warming trays if you have them.   If you stick with pulled pork, this is one of the more economical menu options.  Clean up isn't as easy as a pizza buffet, but not as messy as a chili bar.

Burger/slider Bar:  As tasty and guest-friendly burger/sliders are, this option is going to keep you away from the TV more than any other menu.  Burgers are best freshly grilled, so you'll be flipping, rather than watching.  And even if you went with warming bins to hold burgers as they come off the grill, you're still running back and forth from grill, to kitchen, to buffet table.   The attraction to doing burgers or sliders is cost, this is a relatively inexpensive menu to put together, but with maximizing your time watching the game in mind, I would recommend meatball sliders instead.  You can prep the meatballs the day before, bake them off the morning of the game and keep them warm in a crock pot or warming bin for the game.  Served with a little marinara sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese makes for a tasty comfort food bite!  Recommended sides:  Salads...  Ask guests to bring lettuce, potato, pasta and fruit salads.  You can break out the air fryer and crank out some french fries if you like...  but wouldn't you rather be watching the game?

TIP:  Have some cheap to-go food storage containers, ziplocks and/or plastic bags at the ready for leftovers and to pack up something a guest brought but won't get washed (dirty serving dish/utensils).  Having it staged so guests can readily access it at their convenience means they won't have to track you down to retrieve it.

Hopefully the above gave you some ideas for your Super Bowl watch party.  Enjoy the game everybody and GO CHIEFS!

$pend Wisely My Friends...

~ Mike

Related Party Set Up

Related: Create a taco bar for that next big game viewing party

Related: Party Prepping on the cheap

Related: Bachelor on the Cheap Tip: Keep ice on hand

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